From constantly checking your phone to a bad diet – the 7 everyday habits that could be harming your mental health

HABITS are things we do over and over again and are usually fairly harmless.

But there are some that can be bad for our mental health and have an impact on other areas in life, including relationships, motivation and mood.

Speaking to The Sun, Vanessa Gebhardt, Mind Coach at Freeletics, explained how changing the pattern or breaking these unknowingly harmful habits can help to have a positive effect.

If there's a habit you can't quite shift, that makes you feel down or frustrated then it might be time to sit up and take note, Vanessa says.

Here she highlights the reasons you could be struggling with your mental health.

1. Constantly checking your phone

A hurtful habit is being glued to our phones and checking them without even thinking about it, Vanessa says.

"This mindless checking promotes the expectation of immediate gratification; in other words, looking for notifications which make us feel good and more connected."

Research by De Montfort University recently found that checking your phone regularly can make you more distracted and forgetful, and that’s’ not to mention the negative impact this habit can have on your mental health. 

Vanessa said: "Spending too much time on your phone and on social media can diminish self-esteem and breed negative thoughts.

"To overcome this, monitor your screen time and be mindful of who you choose to follow, which online conversations or debates you choose to join, and focus on the positive posts, rather than the negative ones.

"Nowadays, phones allow you to monitor your daily and weekly screen time, so be sure to enable this function so you can keep an eye on how long you are spending on your phone."

2. Being inside all day

The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on many people as being inside all day can be difficult.

But there is no way to get around being inside all day if you're been told to isolate and the pandemic has meant many people have become accustomed to being at home.

If you're as free as a bird then there's no reason for you to not get some fresh air, Vanessa says.

"Spending the majority of your day indoors can significantly increase your risk for depression, with lack of sunlight and vitamin D contributing to depressive symptoms.

"Heading outside for a short walk can help and if you are still working from home simulating your commute to work is a great way to ensure you get out and about during the day.

"Simply grab a coffee and take a walk round the block before entering your ‘home office’; the natural light, change of scenery and exercise can boost your mental health, improve your mood, and increase your ability to concentrate. "

3. Sleeping too little

A lack of sleep can leave us feeling a little ropey, and this Vanessa says, is because sleep deprivation leads to low mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and getting more easily overwhelmed, which can negatively impact your mental health.

She explained: "Just one week of disturbed or poor sleep can increase stress levels, anger, and feelings of sadness, and it is a vicious cycle, with each of these factors making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.

"If you have trouble sleeping, it is important to seek advice about building a healthy relationship with your own sleep.

"Using techniques to relax and unwind before bed will help you to develop a sleep routine that works for you, helping you to feel energised and more positive during your waking hours."

4. Bad diet

If we've been gorging on sweets and chocolate, it can have a negative impact on our mood.

High-sugar, processed foods like cakes, bread, and biscuits, as well as red meat can substantially raise the risk for depression and eating these sorts of foods on a regular basis could be one of the reasons your mental health is suffering.

"Studies have shown that eating these foods in large quantities, as well as low amounts of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression and mood disorders.

"To positively impact your mental health, pay close attention to the foods you are fuelling your body and mind with, and opt for a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains", Vanessa said.

5. Lack of exercise

Exercising is brilliant for reducing stress and the feel-good endorphins released by exercise can be an instant mood-booster. 

Vanessa states that regular exercise can also help improve your energy levels and motivation, increasing feelings of happiness and reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

She said: "For maximum benefit, try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week.

"If you are not sure where to start, or are looking to switch up your fitness regime, fitness apps like Freeleticsoffer workouts which are suitable for any age and fitness level, with a wide range of Training Journeys to suit your goals and lifestyle."

6. Slouching

According to a study by the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, simply sitting up straight can reduce symptoms of depression.

Vanessa said that several other studies show good posture improves self-esteem and mood, but the results of this study in particular suggest that good posture increases positive attitude, reduces fatigue, and decreases self-focus in those with mild to moderate depression.

7. Procrastinating

We've all been there, we've got that post lunch slump and it's hard to get the motivation to do anything.

Vanessa said: "Procrastination is the avoidance of tasks that are stressful but important, and instead doing the ones that are more enjoyable and not so important.

"This habit, which most of us can likely identify with, seems innocent, but it can harm your mental health and lead to increased stress.

"Procrastination will make you stressed because you feel the burden of the thing that you have not done, but you must do, therefore, leading to increased anxiety and stress which negatively impacts your mental health."

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